The S.League title race has been blown wide open, with a first defeat of the season for champions Albirex Niigata (S) brightening the post-Hari Raya chances of both Home United and Tampines Rovers.
Singapore's domestic championship takes a five-day break to mark the Muslim festival before key matches on Thursday and Friday that could see Albirex's lead at the top cut to a single point.
Home United's 2-0 victory over 10-man Albirex on Friday night came at a cost, with captain Hassan Sunny forced to spend the Hari Raya holiday in hospital after dislocating his shoulder. But it does give the Singapore side renewed hope of winning their first title since 2003.
Hassan faces up to three months on the sidelines after an unfortunate collision late in the first half saw him stretchered off at Jalan Besar Stadium.
"I spoke to the doctor and he said that Hassan broke his nose and dislocated his shoulder, so my mind is not on the victory but on Hassan," Home coach Aidil Sharin said.
"[But] the result's definitely good for us and Tampines. It brings us closer and the morale is going to be up. I want the boys to be humble, keep improving and correct their mistakes."
Home remain in third place on the S.League table. But if they win their game in hand, they will be only two points behind Albirex, who won an unprecedented quadruple of trophies last season.
Injured captain Hassan, who's recovering in Raffles Hospital added: "I'm proud that my team stood strong [without me] to get a crucial win against Albirex. Like I told them before the game, we need to win to get a step closer to them and boost our title chances."
HASSAN SUNNY INJURY UPDATE Hassan sustained heavy head trauma following the collision with Naofumi Tanaka when both players challenged for the ball. Following scans at Raffles Hospital, doctors determined that there was no bleeding in the brain which was the biggest worry at that point of time. Hassan further underwent MRI scans to rule out any spinal or nerve damage. Hassan is stable but is still in some pain while he recuperates. The club is thankful for the outpouring of support and concern for Hassan. We hope that you continue to keep Hassan and his family in your prayers during this period of time. We know Hassan for his strength, resilience and determination, and have no doubt that he will be able to turn the corner from this incident soon. The club will like to attribute the quick response of the match officials, club physio, fellow players, match doctor and paramedics on duty that led to the prompt evacuation of Hassan to Raffles Hospital. The club will also like to convey our thanks to everyone involved and Albirex Niigata (S) FC for the assistance rendered and we send our best wishes to player Naofumi Tanaka.. . . . . #HUFC #redgalaxy #episode3 #TOGETHERWECAN #2017#homerevolution #theprotectors #sgfootball #sgsoccer #revolution #startnow #football #sgblog #igsg #sg #ig #vscosg #sgvsco #sginsta #instasg #photooftheday #ignation #sleague2017 #makeportraitsmag #fitness #sports #Soccer
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The Protectors will play Hougang United this Friday night before a trip to Balestier Khalsa on July 3.
For Home, the most recent victory was satisfying because they'd blown a two-goal lead to draw with the Japanese outfit earlier in the season.
"For us, we should have wrapped it up at 2-0 when we drew 2-2 with them in the first round. This time the boys want to pay back," Aidil said.
Tampines will be in action again on Thursday when they host Geylang International. They moved within three points of Albirex after a gritty 1-0 win away to Warriors FC on Thursday night.
"I think this was the best match from the team from the style how we have played, to control 90 minutes," Tampines coach Jurgen Raab said.
"There was no chance for the home team, and it was only difficult [for us] because Warriors are physically very strong and you must find the right gap in the right moment.
"[We] showed good nerves and it was important. If you play such a match, so close, with so hard battles, it was really nice."
Albirex head coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga admitted that the defeat to Home United was a wake-up call.
"We should be learning something from this loss, and keep working hard to improve for our future matches," he said.
Albirex are next in action in the S.League on July 3 when they travel to Philippe Aw's Hougang.
A Singaporean team haven't won the S.League since Warriors FC in 2014 after Brunei DPMM (2015) and Albirex (2016) claimed the last two titles.